(Pocket-lint) - Every year, Apple introduces a new major software update for the iPhone. For 2020, that update is called iOS 14.
You can now download iOS 14 on your iPhone using Settings > General > Software Update.
In this feature, we're diving into what your iPhone can do with the new software. We installed an early beta version of it on our iPhone XS Max and have been using it for a couple of months now.
If you want to know if iOS 14 will be able to run on your iPhone, check out our iOS 14 system requirements feature.
iOS 14 new features
These are the key features of the new OS. We've been trying them out as part of the beta software and we've listed them below along with our thoughts.
Previously, Widgets were only available on the Today screen, but with iOS 14, new Widgets will offer up timely information at a glance and you'll be able to pin them onto any Home Screen page in different sizes. Yes, it's just like the widgets on Android (and, indeed, the live tiles on Windows Phone).
Simply hold down on the home screen to see the new options just as if you were going to move or bin apps. There's a new + icon in the top left which enables you to add widgets depending on what is installed.
You can choose to scroll through more options for each widget (different sizes) or just drag widgets onto the home screen or the Today screen. The existing icons will then be displaced which means it will take a little bit of work to sort out your home screen.
There is also something called Smart Stack whereby you can create a stack of widgets that can optionally use on-device intelligence to give you the right widget based on time, location and activity - although our smart stack hasn't quite got the measure of us yet. You can swipe through the Smart Stack to see different widgets. This works really well - though won't be that intuitive to new users.
Because it gives you so many options that iPhone users haven't had before, you feel a sense of freedom with them but also a total confusion over what to put where. We've stuck with simple calendar, activity and weather widgets on our home screen rather than lots and lots of widgets - although we're switching between having them stacked and unstacked.
The App Library is a new screen that positions itself at the end of your Home Screen pages. It automatically organises all of your apps into folders, such as Social or Recently Added, as well as Suggestions, showing you apps that might be useful at that particular time. You'll be able to choose how many Home Screen pages to display and hide entire pages for quick access to the App Library.
Again, this creates new options for you, but if you're used to searching for your apps anyway using the Spotlight search it doesn't really add anything new. We found our preferred arrangement was to have two home screens of essential apps, followed by the App Library screen (we hid our other screens, which you can see in the example above). To get to the Edit Pages screen, hold down on your screen as if you were going to trash an app icon, then tap the row of dots above the dock.
An App Clip is a small part of an app - under 10MB - associated with a particular product or business and designed to be instantly downloaded as soon as it is needed. App Clips should load within seconds to complete a specific task, like paying for parking or buying a coffee, appearing as a card at the bottom of your iPhone's display. So it's not a full app download.
App Clips will be able to be easily discovered and accessed by scanning a new Apple-designed App Clip code or through NFC tags and QR codes, as well as when shared in Messages or Safari.
App Clips are automatically removed from your device after 30 days.
As you can see from our example above, Messages enables you to pin conversations to the top of your messages list - like WhatsApp can already. Mentions and inline replies are also being introduced in group threads and there will also be new Memoji options, as well as the option to set a group photo using an image or emoji. Users will be able to mute a group conversation but receive notifications when their name is directly mentioned too.
Enhanced but minimalised Siri
Siri has been redesigned in iOS 14, so now it pops up on the page you're on (as you can see here) rather than opening up a whole new screen. It's getting a host of new features too, including better translation functionality (thanks to the Translate app, see below) and expansion of knowledge. You'll also be able to start to record and send an audio message using Siri.
New Translate app
There's a new Translate app offering translation of voice and text among 11 different languages. The app will work offline for private voice and text translation using Apple's Neural Engine. Turning your iPhone to landscape mode (as here) initiates conversation mode, automatically detecting which languages are being spoken.
Maps will get cycling directions in iOS 14, along with electric vehicle routing and curated Guides. Cycling directions will take into account elevation, how busy a street is, and whether there are stairs on the route. These new features weren't working when we went to try them out in the beta.
The electric vehicle routing feature will add charging stops along a planned route based on current vehicle charge and charger types, while Guides provide a curated list of interesting places to visit in a city, such as popular attractions or a new restaurant.
Digital car keys will arrive with iOS 14, allowing users to use an iPhone or Apple Watch Series 5 to unlock and start their car. They use NFC and you'll be able to share digital car keys using Messages so someone else can drive your car, for example. You'll also be able to disable them though iCloud if a device is lost. We haven't been able to try this out as yet, but we're hopeful we can soon.
It's worth mentioning that car keys will only be supported by certain devices: iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE (2nd generation), and Apple Watch Series 5.
Default third-party apps
Apple will enable users to set third-party apps as their default apps over Apple's own apps in iOS 14. You'll be able to set Chrome or Gmail as your default browser and email app, respectively, for example so when you tap a link or an email address, it'll automatically always open in those apps.
The new iOS 14 software will bring Picture-in-Picture support to iPhone, allowing users to watch a video or take a FaceTime call while using another app.
New Fitness app
The Activity app is getting a redesign for iOS 14 as you can see here, as well as a new name - Fitness. Rings, Workouts and Trends are all be displayed on one page, offering easier access to information, and there's compatibility for new workouts added too, including Dance.
The Health app now has sections for managing sleep and a new Health Checklist, which is a centralised place to manage health and safety features like Emergency SOS, Medical ID, ECG and Fall Detection, among others. Support has also been added for new data types under mobility, health records, symptoms, and ECG.
With iOS 14, all apps must obtain user permission before tracking users and App Store product pages will show summaries of developers' self-reported privacy practices - similar to a food label.
Users will also be able to upgrade existing accounts to Sign in with Apple, choose to share their approximate location rather than their precise location when granting an app location access and get more transparency into an app's use of the microphone and camera.
Safari offers a Privacy Report in iOS 14 so users can see which cross-site trackers have been blocked, as well as password monitoring to help users detect saved passwords that may have been involved in a data breach. Built-in translation for entire webpages is also being added - a feature Chrome already offers.
The Home app is also getting new automation suggestions and expanded controls in Control Center with iOS 14, as well as new features like Adaptive Lighting for compatible lights and on-device Face Recognition for compatible cameras.
Adaptive Lighting will see smart lights automatically adjust the colour temperature throughout the day, while on-device face recognition will identify friends and family using the information it already has.
The Weather app and widget get next-hour precipitation charts in iOS 14, presenting minute-by-minute precipitation when rain is in the forecast.
Those with a pair of Apple's wireless earbuds will see them gain the ability to seamlessly switch between Apple devices with automatic device switching in iOS 14.
The Find My app will add support for finding third-party products and accessories in iOS 14, with the new Find My network accessory program. It means users will be able to use the Find My app to locate other items as well as Apple devices and any contacts they share locations with.
Accessibility features in iOS 14 include Headphone Accommodations, which will amplify soft sounds and tunes audio to help music, movies, phone calls, and podcasts sound crisper and clearer. There is also sign language detection in Group FaceTime coming in iOS 14, which makes the person signing more prominent in a video call.
Additionally, VoiceOver - a screen reader for the blind community - will automatically recognise what is displayed visually onscreen.
iOS 14 device support
Apple has said the new iOS 14 software features will be available this fall as a free software update for iPhone 6s and later.